Research Grants

It seems almost impossible to open a newspaper or watch a television broadcast of the latest news stories and not find a story proclaiming the latest medical development. The field of medical research seems to be generating constant stories of new developments, new drugs and medical procedures, and new knowledge about the human body in general.

Medical research is very complicated and strictly regulated by various government entities. It’s also entirely dependent upon expensive laboratory equipment, products and ingredients, and highly skilled medical scientists. The most common way to pay for all these highly specialized people and things is with research grants.

In the United States alone, research grants in 2003 topped the $94 billion mark. There’s little doubt that the dollar amount has only risen since then but there is little available data for subsequent years and a comprehensive dollar amount is just not yet available.

In the US, most of the money behind research grants comes from pharmaceutical companies. In fact, they are on record as contributing $27 billion in 2003 for research alone.

The next biggest contributor to research grants in the US was the National Institutes of Health, a federal agency chartered with the responsibility to advance, regulate, and oversee health and biomedical research projects. The National Institutes of Health contributed more than $26 billion, or about 28% of the total, of the monies allocated for research grants in 2003. The National Institutes of Health falls under the jurisdiction of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Biotechnology companies were big contributors of research grants in 2003 also. Their contributions accounted for about 19%, or roughly $18 billion, for research projects that year.

Medical devices are vitally important to the medical profession and to patients alike. Constant research is being done to improve the equipment already available and to develop new and better tools. Medical devices include everything from prosthetic limbs and pacemakers to thermometers, microscopes, x-ray machines and other diagnostic equipment, and the meters with which we measure vital signs such as blood pressure and blood sugar.

The companies who develop and manufacture medical devices of all kinds contributed more than $9 billion in research grants in 2003, accounting for about 10% of the total amount awarded.

Government agencies at all levels – local, state, and federal – also contribute funds to research grants. Everyone benefits from such research and different governing bodies fund the projects that are most important to them.

Research and humanitarian foundations and charitable organizations contributed about 3% toward the total monies spent on research grants in 2003. In this category of research grant funding, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was the top contributor to medical research.